Catholic Priests in World War II
Donald F. Crosby
"If death must come—then far better for it to come when I'm shoulder to shoulder with these men who are fighting to preserve our country. . . . They are going to know that, in spite of being 'scared as hell' like the rest of them, a Catholic Priest is still going ahead and doing his work."
Father James P. Flynn could have been speaking for the rest of the chaplain corps, for he and his comrades shared fully in the lot of the common soldier: in Pacific island jungles, Europe's battered cities, North African deserts, and the oceans in between. And like the common soldier, chaplains endured the same combat perils, exposure to the elements, internal conflicts, boredom, and intense longings for peace and home.
“Crosby transports his readers directly to the front. Here is social history combining thumbnail sketches of key battles with powerful portraits of men of the cloth under fire.”
—American Historical Review
“Gracefully, even entertainingly, written, this book gives worthwhile insights into both the work of dedicated chaplains and the daily life of servicemen under fire during World War II.”
—Journal of American HistorySee all reviews...
“A compelling story of courageous men.”
“A powerful story that provides a marvelous passage through the Second World War.”
“A story both authentic and stirring. Under hostile fire, the chaplains risked their lives. They sought the wounded, the dying, and the dead who lay exposed and helpless. They succored them, rescued them, brought them back to medical aid stations, and prayed over them. They buried bodies and wrote to the families of the deceased. . . . Crosby's words will bring lumps to the throat, tears to the eyes, and a sense of wonder and joy for their heroism.”
—Martin Blumenson, author of The Patton Papers
“Crosby captures the experience of war from the grass roots: the human agony, fearful anticipation, omnipresent danger, and the overwhelming reality of death, and he demonstrates the crucial role played by chaplains. This is a significant contribution to the field of American Catholic and religious history. Scholars and general readers alike will find it fascinating because of the compelling personalities and dramatic anecdotes.”
—David J. O'Brien, author of Public Catholicism
“Unsentimental and realistic in his approach, painstaking in his research, and stirring in his presentation, Crosby has given us a story never before told. And he has done so in a style characteristic of the finest examples of America's vast World War II literature.”
—Eric Hammel, author of Guadalcanal: Starvation IslandSee fewer reviews...
Father Donald Crosby chronicles the little-known but crucial wartime role of Catholic chaplains and celebrates their compassion, courage, good humor, and humility. Their wartime efforts saved lives, provided comfort and hope, and renewed lost faith in a dark time. In the process, he shows, they also forged the beginnings of what would become the widespread ecumenical spirit of cooperation among Catholics, Protestants, and Jews that followed the war's end.
Although Crosby praises their heroic efforts, very much like those of Protestant and Jewish chaplains, he reveals that they were subject to the same human frailties as the men they comforted. They were also intensely patriotic and raised few objections to the racist and propagandistic depictions of the enemy, to the massed bombings of German and Japanese cities, or even to the use of the atomic bomb at war's end. (On the other hand, they zealously opposed many of their charges' sexual activities, including the use of prophylactics.)
Drawing upon many previously untapped church and government archival sources, as well as extensive interviews, Crosby's study vividly portrays faith under fire and grace at groundlevel, reminding us again that "there are no atheists in foxholes."